Must Read Founder's Five August 4, 2023

Founder’s Five: Michael Simpson, PAIRIN

Founder’s Five is a continuing series from Tyton Partners that invites education company founders to shed light on their own success and illuminate the landscape for other education entrepreneurs and investors by answering five basic questions.

Michael Simpson founded PAIRIN in 2012 to foster a rewarding and relevant journey for students and career-seeking professionals to find successful careers, programs, jobs, and services.

PAIRIN strives to change the way workforce and education connect to foster a seamless, rewarding and relevant journey for students and career-seeking professionals.

PAIRIN’s My Journey platform personalizes matches for students and other job-seeking professionals to careers, programs, jobs, and services to help them succeed. For state government agencies and their professionals, PAIRIN provides a 360-degree view of their clients, reports the impact of their programs, and streamlines access to any government service.

My Journey is the only platform that connects user data across systems for a unified record to simplify decision making for beneficiaries, professionals, and policymakers alike.

What is your company’s origin story?

After years as a software executive and executive coach I was inspired to make sure there would be something more than “He sold a lot of software” engraved on my tombstone. PAIRIN is a culmination of my life experiences — from not being able to follow the traditional education to work path due to needing to work to survive, struggling for years to find and develop a career running strategy for enterprise software companies, and later becoming a coach to help others chart their own paths (including seven years in Russia coaching mostly adult children of alcoholics to be successful in business and life.) PAIRIN originally sold skills development and coaching tools, but in 2019 we pivoted to solve the larger problem of connecting individuals to all the information and resources they need to change the trajectory of their lives.

How will the market be changed by your company’s success?

Some of the greatest software company successes have created huge change while simultaneously wreaking havoc on our society that the founders could have never predicted. We work to do no harm while striving to realize our vision. The hope of that vision, which is being realized in part today, is that the generational trajectory of millions of disadvantaged families across this country and abroad will be forever improved by the decisions made and opportunities provided through our software. I believe we can also drive major policy change at the state and federal level to enable accurate education outcome data to become available to support wise decisions for policy makers, professionals, families, and individuals that can revolutionize our education system to make it more relevant to our workforce’s needs. Entire industries could emerge due to those changes. But above all, my greatest hope is that every single individual we employ, partner with, and serve will look back on their involvement with PAIRIN and be able to say they are a better version of themselves for the experience. 

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you began?

I wish had not taken outside funding until I shipped a product and proved product market fit. I spent so much time adjusting to investors with wildly varying opinions instead of doing what I thought was right. It took many years and a lot of trial and error to develop the wisdom to know when to follow advice, and from whom, and when to follow my own path.

I spent so much time adjusting to investors with wildly varying opinions instead of doing what I thought was right. It took many years and a lot of trial and error to develop the wisdom to know when to follow advice, and from whom, and when to follow my own path.

Michael Simpson

It’s so much easier now to chew the meat and spit out the bones regarding advice. 

What non-intuitive insight have you gained through this work?

When I was a new CEO, I was always in a hurry, concerned about losing ground to competitors and fighting to get a competitive advantage. Sounds normal for a CEO, huh? Well, I discovered that my urgency, pursuit of excellence, and unwavering determination to succeed is better focused on the culture of my company, the lives of my team members, and the values I want us all to be known to live. The truth is, just about everything moves more slowly than you think, even your competitors. Angst and pressure will not make a great team work harder. Calm, measured confidence, a clear, passionate vision, and daily decisions to trust smart people will. 

What other education company besides your own do you wish you had started?

I never wanted to start a company. That was never the goal. That would be about me, not the problem we are trying to solve. There are way easier ways to make a living that don’t threaten your family’s peace, security, and future. I partially owe starting PAIRIN to one of my coaches. One day on a coaching call from my mountain cabin, where all was good and calm in my world, I shared the concept with him and my doubts about moving forward. He said, “Michael, for years you’ve been coaching leaders all over the world to build great companies. Maybe it’s time you showed them how to do it, instead.” And the student became the teacher. That was the day I decided. I felt an obligation to start THIS company, and I don’t have envy for any other CEO or organization.